If you’re a musician, you probably get asked whether you do original songs or covers. And as unassuming as that question sounds, it’s actually a hornet’s nest buzzing with speculation on your intent, ambition, and talent. Do you have your own thoughts? Do you have something engaging and identifiable to say? Or do you just echo the ideas of other writers?
Originality — the quality of being new, fresh, innovative, or novel — is the difference between a piano player and a player piano. It is the distinction between a painting on canvas and a print from the museum gift shop.
It is the thing that can’t be copied.
No doubt there are more covers of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” than there are ukulele bands in the world to attempt them. Yet it’s the original version of the song people love most.
Granted, most artists begin their careers by emulating others. But then they grow beyond those constraints. In time they render their work as distinctively as Nature renders a strand of DNA.
Artists often believe their work is original because of something they do. Or because of the way they do it. But nothing an artist does is as distinctive as who they are. Originality isn’t developed as much as it is discovered. Like any coming of age, the process of finding one’s creative voice is a journey.
The novelist Joseph Heller glimpsed the insanity of war in a way that was all his own. William Faulkner drew a map in his mind that only he could navigate. Kurt Vonnegut wrote in a voice that was recognizable without attribution. These writers were being who they were — and “bottling” that originality in their work.
The ancient Greeks said, “know thyself.” When you do, you know what makes your work unique. And your originality shows.
Blending in vs. standing out
You might think, “Nothing I hear on the radio is original. Why would I want to write anything that is?” And if your goal is to blend in with the crowd, then you might have a point. Your chances of writing accessible songs are greater if you keep your ideas “universal” (songwriting code for “clichéd”) than if you set them apart. But cloning the work of other songwriters will also make you easy to forget. Unless you’re ready and willing to do battle with an army of soundalikes — and it’s a big army — you’re better off sticking to your own territory, with your own original style and point of view.
The world doesn’t need you to be a second-rate somebody else.
It needs you to be the writer no one else can be.
Mixing The Kick Drum (Podcast) -
You’ve begun the journey of recording kick drum. Now that it’s tracked your ready to start mixing. How do you get that perfect, in your face, kick drum sound?
A bar, that is, an establishment that earns its revenue primarily from selling alcoholic beverages, measures its success by the ounce and the accounting is done everyday because we mostly live on the edge. So we spend our time trying to figure out how to sell more ounces. It’s not just how many people are in the house or how great the atmosphere is (that’s certainly important), but how many drinks, preferably premium, we sell in a day. That’s it.
Live music is important to most of us (if we have that kind of venue). But it is a significant expense and is only worthwhile if it produces more than it consumes, just like advertising and anything else we spend money on in order to sell more ounces. But so many of the bands that come through here have no clue what their job is. Your job is to sell booze. You’re not here for any other reason.
There are some truly awful bands that actually chase customers away. But there are also some bands I would call mediocre who do a fantastic job of selling my product. There are also some really good bands who rock the house but not the cash drawer. While I appreciate good music and would never have an interest listening to that mediocre band’s lame CD, they’re coming back next week. Here’s why:
1. They play simple music people recognize. People don’t dance to brilliant guitar solos or heady changes, they dance to the hook lyrics of a simple chorus. (If you’ve ever wondered why pop is popular, that’s why). When the ladies want to dance, the guys show up and everybody drinks. Simple truth.
2. They don’t ask me for drinks, they ask my customers. This is a subtle art and if it’s done well, the band can more than pay for itself. Here’s a few obvious techniques: If someone offers to buy the band a round, you order shots of top-shelf. Even if you don’t drink it, ask for it anyway. If someone asks for a request, try to make a deal with them. If you buy (your date, your table, the band) a round, we’ll play your song. Some bands beg for tips, and that’s fine, but it’s not what I’m paying you for. (Try to play request anyway. At least you wont chase them off.) We had one front man hold up a mixed drink and make a wonderfully cheesy but impassioned pitch that you simply had to try this because it was, as he put it, “a glass of pure happiness”. It resulted in over a hundred bucks in the drawer in just a few minutes. Those guys are busy.
3. They may not be the best band in town but they look and act professional. I cringe when I see a supposedly professional band wearing frayed khaki shorts, flip flops, mildly offensive t-shirts and greasy baseball caps (the standard bro uniform). I don’t care if you’re bald, a baseball cap is unacceptable. Live music is a visual form of entertainment. If you dress well, even if it’s hipster, funky, weird or flamboyant, as long as you look like you care about your appearance, and show a little self respect, you’ll go over better with my customers. The good bands also respect their gig and the customers. They show up on time, they don’t make a racket while they setup (hint: keep your drummer quiet especially when the jukebox is on.), they choose their set list carefully, they pace their sets well and stay engaged with the audience (don’t stop playing if the dance floor is full), they don’t get hammered and and they don’t leave a mess. All this adds up to what we call retention. Customers don’t leave. You would be surprised how many customers leave because of the band. And it’s usually not because the band is awful, but because it’s too loud, it’s the wrong repertoire, it’s rude and dismissive, it’s not engaged and basically no fun for anyone else but themselves. And here’s a little tip: Your continued employment is directly dependent on my bartender’s opinion of you. That’s probably true for every single bar you play.
One last thing. It’s hard to find work. You might be surprised at how much competition you have. I get emails, voicemails, regular mail, fed-ex packages left for me, all with earnestly concocted press kits and demos and I ignore almost all of it. I get walk-ins who, if I’m there, I’ll give a few minutes to. Again, you’d be surprised how many show up in their bro-clothes, tell me how awesome they are, and hand me a business card with a URL to their reverb nation page or YouTube channel. They probably go home and wonder why they don’t get a call, but I’m not going to visit your website or listen to your demo. You’ve got maybe 60 seconds to make your “elevator pitch” and just a few more minutes to make it stick. There is a sales technique I’m seeing that’s impressive, stands out and really works, but out of respect for the bands that figured it out, call it a trade secret.
Bottom line: A bar is a business. My bar is my business, my life, my success or failure. What I do in my business is entirely up to me because the risk is entirely mine. If I have a jam night, an open mic, solos, duos, bands, karaoke, or just a jukebox, that’s up to me and no one else. Whatever helps make the most revenue. I have great respect for working musicians and would rather not hire them at all than to short-change them.
The open mic and jams that seem to get so much criticism here are not about me getting free entertainment, they are about bringing in paying customers and keeping them here. People who play and sing, but not in a professional band, like to get out, get a little stage time, have some fun, bring their friends and I offer them the place to do it. And yes, these nights are pretty good for the bottom line. If having bands was better, I’d have bands every night. It’s just reality, man.
Lo-fi is the opposite of hi-fi. Technically, hi-fi sound implies a flat frequency response with no noise, distortion, or other imperfections. In contrast, lo-fi sounds might have a narrow frequency response (a thin, cheap sound), and could include artifacts such as aliasing, hiss, distortion, or record scratches and vinyl surface noise.
Lo-fi really took off with rap music, in which the drum sound was the opposite of the usual polished studio sound. Instead of a tight kick, we heard a boomy kick; wide-range snare sounds with a full thump and crisp attack gave way to tinny, trashy snares that were all midrange. Lo-fi is also a component of some dance music and of course, punk is not about polite sounds, either.
No matter what type of music you do, though, lo-fi can add extra textures and colors that make a song stand out from the crowd. So, let’s look at a few ways not to take out the trash, but put it in.
LO-FI FREQUENCY RESPONSE
You can easily make a lo-fi effect simply by messing up a signal’s frequency response so it’s anything but flat. Cut the highs and lows, boost the mids. Or create a raggedy response with lots of bumps and dips. Some ways to do this are with EQ, mic choice, and mic placement. Here are some specific tips on obtaining lo-fi frequency responses:
Play a snare track through your mixer, and turn down the low frequency and high frequency EQ. Boost around 1kHz or nearby frequencies. Your snare sound will change from high-budget to bargain-basement; Beck’s “Soul-Suckin’ Jerk” from the album Loser is a good example of a lo-fi drum set.
Find a toilet paper tube, or a flexible plastic tube that extends gutter downspouts. Put the tube in front of a mic and sing through the tube. The resonances in the tube will color the sound in a wild way.
Plug a set of headphones into a mic preamp, crank up the gain (preferably to the point of distortion), and yell into the phones: You’ll have a sound unlike any “real” mic.
Record a child’s drum set with its small heavy cymbals and boomy kick drum. You might loop a hi-hat beat made from this set, and mix it with a full-range recording of a quality drum set.
Track down some cheap old mics at a garage sale, on eBay, or from vintage mic collectors. Record a few tracks using those mics. Their frequency response tends to be a complex series of peaks and valleys that you can’t duplicate with EQ.
Unusual mic placements are fun: Record a guitar amp or vocal with the mic placed in a wastebasket (Figure 1). Hit a cymbal with a cheap mic while recording its signal. Mic a snare drum from underneath for a thin, zippy effect. If you mic a crash cymbal at its edge, pointing toward the center, the sound will waver as the cymbal tilts when struck.
Distortion adds harmonics that didn’t exist in the original sound. An obvious way to create distortion is to drive a piece of recording gear at very high levels—well beyond what it can handle. For example, record drums on a cassette recorder with the meters pinning. Or yell into a “bullet”-type harmonica mic so that the mic distorts. In a DAW, use a distortion plug-in such as iZotope Trash (Figure 2; www.izotope.com).
Guitar effects are, of course, great for adding distortion. Run a drum track through a guitar stomp box, or through a broken vintage compressor. Feed a vocal through a Line 6 Amp Farm plug-in, or their POD processor. Also consider recording some instruments on a cheap cassette recorder (Figure 3); the Rolling Stones did that to create the beginning of “Jumping Jack Flash.”
NOISE AND MORE
iZotope’s free Vinyl plug-in adds record scratches, hum, rumble, and other noises. Another way to have noises in your mix is to record noisy instruments! When the tubes in your tube guitar amp start to go, don’t throw them out but keep them in your “Lo-Fi Tools” drawer. Tubes on the verge of death often produce very interesting sounds (as do ripped speakers).
If your mixes are too sterile or studio-clean, consider recording some leakage. Leakage (also called bleed or spill) results from picking up an instrument by another instrument’s mic, like a guitar mic picking up the drums from across the room. Leakage changes the recorded sound of the drums from tight to muddy. In fact, some virtual drum instruments, like Fxpansion’s BFD and ToonTrack’s EZ Drummer, allow mixing in leakage within the drum set itself. It’s easy to create leakage while recording with mics: Just place them further away from the source than normal, and record all the instruments at once, without any baffling.
In the quest for quality recordings, it’s standard practice to treat a studio’s acoustics, often to reduce early reflections (echoes that occur less than about 20ms after the direct sound from the instrument being recorded). Those early reflections tell the ear that the instrument was recorded in a small room. Normally we get rid of the reflections and replace them with artificial reverb, but a lo-fi recording often includes the sound of the room as part of the sound of the recorded instrument.
To pick up room reflections, mic farther away than usual from the source and leave the walls uncovered; use the room for its coloration, rather than rejecting the room. For a really spacious effect, consider recording several instruments in stereo with two mics. Pick up instruments or vocals in a hallway, a bathroom, a box, or even outdoors.
It’s common to include hi-fi sounds along with lo-fi sounds in the same mix to make a statement to your listeners: “I can record hi-fi sounds, but I choose not to. The trashy sounds are due to a conscious choice rather than a lack of recording chops.” If you have nothing but lo-fi sounds in your mixes, it might sound like you don’t know what you’re doing. Just remember that the ear delights in complexity; the contrast of clean and dirty sounds, modern and vintage, can add a lot of sonic interest.
DIGITAL LO-FI TRICKS
Lo-fi is not just the province of analog recording; digital technology can create sounds so terrifying that small house pets will flee in terror. Here’s how.
Read More At: http://www.emusician.com/news/0766/lo-fi-recording-how-to-trash-your-tracks/135166
CREATING ANALOG SOUND IN A DIGITAL WORLD - PODCAST -
Have you ever wondered how to get that great analog warmth in your mix even in a digital environment? In this episode of the show I talk about 3 ways to do exactly that.
Auto-Tune Abuse in Pop Music – 10 Examples -
Pitch correction software has applications from restoration and mix-rescue to outright distortion of a voice or instrument. I’ll discuss some of the more tasteful uses of these auto-tune tools (whether the original from Antares, or a variant like the free GSnap) below. But first I thought I’d highlight their misuse to illustrate the effects we usually try to avoid.
1. A recording device
For a perfectly good digital recording device, look no further than your computer. Your built-in sound card will probably work fine, but if you’re serious about home recording, you should consider investing in a sound card made exclusively for that purpose, with a high-quality digital audio converter (DAC), microphone pre-amps and MIDI input/output.
To record music on your computer, you’ll also need sequencing software. This is software that records either analog audio from a microphone or MIDI data from electronic instruments. Sequencing software allows you to easily edit and mix multiple tracks, add effects, export audio files to CD. The industry standard for professional audio sequencing is Pro Tools (comes with its own sound card), but there are options for every budget.
Computers are such versatile and powerful home recording devices that almost everybody chooses this option. However, if you’re a firm believer that computers and music don’t mix, you can buy a multi-track digital recording device that records onto a compact Flash card or even burns directly to a CD.
2. A good microphone
Don’t skimp on your microphone. Even with all of the magic of digital editing and effects, you can’t do much with a bad source recording. The best kind of microphone for recording solo acoustic instruments and vocals is a condenser microphone. For vocals, you’ll also want a pop filter, an inexpensive piece of material that protects the mic from hard “p” and sharp “s” sounds.
To record a full rock band, you’ll need to mic all of the instruments separately using smaller dynamic mics. You should be able to find good condenser mics for under $200 and dynamic mics for under $100.
3. Monitor speakers and headphones
Monitor speakers are different than normal stereo speakers. They’re important in a recording studio environment because they broadcast the audio exactly as it’s being recorded, without “coloring” or “sweetening” the sound [source: BBC]. This is the best way to ensure that your recording will sound exactly how it did when you were playing it.
It’s common to record songs in a multi-track format, recording each track one by one (drums first, bass second, keyboards third, et cetera). The best way to do this is to use a pair of headphones to listen to the previously recorded tracks as you lay down a new one. Good headphones keep the sound in, so the only thing that’s recorded is the new track.
4. A MIDI controller or synthesizer
A synthesizer is typically an electronic keyboard that can be programmed to play many different kinds of sounds. But synthesizers come in many different shapes and sizes, such as guitar synths, wind instrument synths and drum machines.
A MIDI controller is like a synthesizer, but doesn’t actually produce any sounds by itself. The instrument is literally a controller, like a joystick for a computer game. A MIDI controller produces MIDI data which can be used to play other synthesizers, whether hardware- or software-based. For example, you can use a MIDI controller to play an electronic keyboard plug-in like ProTools. Or use a single MIDI controller to play a whole network of interconnected synthesizers and drum machines.
5. An audio interface
An audio interface is like an external sound card. Instead of plugging microphones and digital instruments directly into your computer, you plug them into this external box that connects to your computer with a single cord, either USB or Firewire. The interface handles the analog-to-digital conversion, taking pressure off your computer’s processing power. This is especially useful for laptops, which don’t have space for extra internal PCI cards and generally have slower processors.
Audio interfaces, also known as breakout boxes, come with a certain number of microphone pre-amps (anywhere from two to a dozen) and knobs to control the recording level of each microphone. Generally, each instrument and vocal needs its own microphone (drums need at least 3 separate mics), so look for an interface with enough pre-amps to cover your needs.
Recording Acoustic Guitars is easy, all you have to do is plug a microphone into a recorder, place the microphone in front of the acoustic guitar, press recorder and start playing. Its that easy and you might get a good recording but, there are things you can do to get better recordings.
Just by changing the position of the microphone in relation to the guitar will have an affect on the way the acoustic guitar recording will sound. And, by using a different type of microphone will affect the sound of the guitar recording. Here are a few things you can try, but, just remember, one way isn’t necessarily better than another, you will just get a different result. So it’s important to experiment until you get the sound that you like. One important thing is your guitar needs to be in tune so it’s best to use a guitar tuner to keep it in tune.
Read More At: http://www.the-home-recording-studio.com/recording-acoustic-guitars.html
#1: You should focus on love.
The greatest hit songs of all time have been written on this theme. No point re-inventing the wheel. Let ideas flow out of your heart. You should not be afraid to write lyrics that say what you feel. Love songs work!
#2: Stop thinking so much about the money.
While this is the music business, you would do better focusing on doing music for the love of it instead of making money your primary focus. If you’re doing this just because you think there is money to be made, when that doesn’t come you will become frustrated and give up. Focus on writing good songs and the money will follow.
#3: Listen to music.
Listen to hits. Ask yourself this question. What has made these songs hits? What tricks and techniques has the songwriter used? My friend, why create mediocrity if you can copy genius? Some people tend to think differently. But I beg to differ.
#4: You should write songs every day.
Writing every day will pay off. You don’t necessarily have to write an entire song each and every day, but a few lines will go a long way. Practice makes perfect. The more time you spend writing songs the better you will become.
#5: Write songs about your own experiences.
It’s probably much easier to write about what you know than what you’ve never been through. It comes from within. You should however think of your market and give your songs a global appeal.
#6: Rewrite and Polish your songs.
You should keep rewriting and re-polishing your songs. What sounded brilliant before may not create such a great impact later. So keep refining these lyrics or melodies which you think need enhancing. Make sure that your song is polished to perfection.
Some Love For The Uncut Songwriter -
Last Tuesday night I was invited to be on the judge’s panel for Puckett’s “rising star” program here in Franklin, Tennessee. Haven’t done one of these types of events in a long time and wanted to share some thoughts. On this night we were judging the song, not the artist. Puckett’s, along with the Bluebird and a few others, do a great job of showcasing and supporting new writers and established ones.
1. Do you have a strong opening line?
The opening line of your song is the first and best chance to engage your listener in the story you’re about to tell. Strong opening lines explain the where, what, and who of your story and will eventually lead to the “why” the story is being told. Make sure your opening line is designed to start your listener down the road to getting involved in the story you’re telling.
2. Are you using concrete imagery?
One of the best ways to put a listener immediately into the middle of your song’s story is to use strong imagery. I’ve also heard this imagery called “furniture.” These images are the details in a lyric that give your listener things to remember and connect with. Generally speaking, imagery is reserved for the verses where the meat of your story is being told. Choruses are designed to state the main point or theme of your song. Another way to think about imagery is to “show ‘em, not tell ‘em.” What that means is that it’s less effective to say, for example, she was a seductive woman but she was bad news than it is to describe her as “a black heart in a green dress.”
3. Are your lyrics singable?
By the way, it’s not enough to tell a good story with your lyric. It’s equally important to make sure that the words you use are easy to sing and phrase naturally. I’ve also heard this put as making sure your lyric is “conversational.” Lyrics that are awkward or emphasize the wrong syllables pull a listener’s ear in a bad way. There’s a reason the word “baby” is in almost every song ever written … those long “a” and “e” sounds are great and easy to sing. Another way to put this is that you won’t find the word “Nicaragua” popping up in a lot of hit songs.
4. How effective is your hook?
By way of explanation, the main point and identifier of your song can be referred to as the hook. In other words, it is the part of the lyric that reaches out and grabs the listener. Make sure that along with the story you’re telling, the hook is clear and doing its job. Often the lyrical hook of the song is also its title. It’s that important.
5. Does your chorus have a strong last line?
There are very few places in a song’s lyric more important than the last line of the chorus. This is the place where everything you’ve been leading up to in your verses and the first lines of your chorus pays off. It’s often the place where the hook is and usually leaves the listener satisfied that they understand your message. One important way to make the last line of your chorus count is to set it up with some kind of rhyme in one of the earlier chorus lines. That way, not only are the words important but they complete a rhyme, which adds extra emphasis.
6. Does the overall idea of your song work?
Often when we’ve worked on a lyric for a long time, it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees. In other words, we get so wrapped up in making things rhyme and using imagery that the overall concept of the song loses some of its focus. Make sure after you’ve finished your lyric that the overall message of the song is developed and supported in every line. While you, as the songwriter, already know your song’s story, you need to make doubly sure that a listener who is hearing your song for the first time will know what you’re talking about.
7. Is your verse melody interesting?
Given that the melody of your song is one of the first things people hear and pay attention to (sorry lyricists, but the words come waaaay later), you’ll want to be sure that your verse melody is catchy and unique. This doesn’t mean your melody should be bizarre or uncomfortable but, rather, that it should be distinctive and memorable.
8. Does your chorus melody differ from your verse melody?
So much of what we do as songwriters is about giving the listener clues as to what the most important parts of our songs are. By making sure that your chorus melody is not only strong but differentiates itself from the verse melody, you’ll cue the listener in to the fact that you’ve arrived at the main musical - and lyrical - moment in the song.
9. Does your bridge add to the song?
A bridge is really designed as a moment in the song where you step away from the verses and choruses to make an additional lyrical observation or melodic contribution. If your bridge melody sounds too much like your verse or chorus, even if the lyric is doing something new, the risk is that you’ll miss an opportunity to add something of value to an already strong song. All this to say, be sure that if you have a bridge, it’s musically apart from what you’ve been doing in your song’s other sections.
10. Does your melody flow naturally throughout the song?
Not only should the melody in each section of your song distinguish itself, but your overall melody should flow naturally from section to section. Be careful not to have a melody that is too repetitive. A little repetition is a good thing as it adds to the “hooky” nature of your song, but too much repetition becomes distracting and a bit unpleasant from the listener’s standpoint. And be sure that your melody sits comfortably over the chords you’ve chosen. The harmonic - chordal - decisions you make can serve to either accentuate or hinder your melodic work.
Critiquing your own songs is often a time-consuming and somewhat frustrating experience. That said, it’s essential that you hold your songs up to the highest standard if you’re hoping to have a better chance at commercial success. I do want to remind you, however, that your first - and most important - job is to write the song. Focusing on critiquing your song too early in the process might prevent you from writing something heartfelt and spontaneous. In my experience, it’s always easier to get it all out first and invite your “editor” to the party once you’re done.
OPTIMIZING YOUR COMPUTER FOR RECORDING -
Have you ever been in the middle of recording a take only to have you computer crash or freeze? Learn how to optimize your computer for home recording.
Naturally the easiest way to gussy up any recording is to judiciously drop in a few basic effects here and there. A splash of reverb adds instant dimension to an otherwise lifeless lead vocal or bare-bones instrumental overlay; some slapback delay or repeat echo can produce the same result, while providing a bit of rhythmic feel as well. To avoid a hyper-wet sound when using reverb, boost the level of the pre-delay on your effect settings, which will increase the space between the dry and “colored” signals (you can also pan the pre-delayed signal so that the sound of the reverb “jumps” across the stereo spectrum).
A compressor-limiter can also be a potent weapon. At a moderate setting the compressor levels, rather than effects, the signal (hence the “limiter” designation); raising the compressor’s “attack” while decreasing the “release” and “threshold” settings produces a more aggressive sound, suitable for lead vocal, acoustic guitar, drums, and other parts. Because the compressor responds differently depending on the volume of the source, experimentation is key; settings that you’ve used on a snare-drum mic, for instance, may be totally inappropriate when it comes time to record a vocal part.
When processing tracks, avoid overdoing it. Excessive use of delay or reverb can easily cause a recording to lose its focus; though a compressed mix might sound awesome in your basement, if radio play is your goal, bear in mind that the added broadcast compression will likely squash your pre-squished track into oblivion.
Equalization can be used as an effect as well. Radically raising the mid-range while simultaneously rolling off the bass and treble can result in a nice strident piano sound (especially when combined with a bit of compression), and may also be used for lead and/or background vocals as well.
Read More At: http://songwriter101.com/articles/entry/how_to_use_recording_effects_effectively
2013 Best Computer Speaker Comparisons and Reviews -
Compare the best computer speakers available. Side-by-side comparisons of features and prices of top rated computer speaker systems. Easily see which pc speaker system stands above the rest. Read professional in-depth reviews and articles helping you choose the best computer speakers for meeting your needs.